Apr 27, 2013

Churches Helping in Big Ways

We are pleased to announce that we have two partner church organizations that are working to do something that almost no one can do--provide transitional housing for some of our clients. This is a hard thing to do because it's a long-term commitment. Research on homeless people similar to our clients has shown it often takes 18 months from the time that someone truly wants to get off the street and begins to dedicate themselves fully to this. It's not a straight uphill path, either. Typically, a street-dependent youth has multiple episodes of living on the street.


"Fostering" a street youth is what we call this activity. It's not for all churches and it's not for all clients. And we don't know exactly what will make it work perfectly every time, but a couple of brave organizations have felt God's call to try. And we think that's awesome.


So far, clients focused on are women with babies on the way, because obviously the benefits will change not only the client's life but the life of the baby coming. Not all women who have babies while being street-dependent need housing help. In fact, quite a few are able to use the baby's arrival as new motivation and urgency to get things together. However, a fair portion of babies do end up in foster care. And since 50% of our clients were in foster care, there may well be a cycle here. And helping a young expecting mom with housing might just break the cycle.


Right now, we have two young ladies in temporary housing. One program is urban based using financial means to provide a boarding house. The other program is rural based, using land and a trailer to provide housing. Both efforts including lots of life skills training and help from case managers. One is more social-work based, with a retired social worker being the main point of contact, and the other is more community based, with a small group of people surrounding the client with fellowship, support, and advice. Both programs are defined around strong boundaries, accountability, and a finite duration.


Our goal is to make sure our clients are safe and emerge as better off. We also want to protect our partner organizations from pitfalls that commonly shut the doors of new outreach efforts.


Both programs have made us optimistic. The Body of Christ stepped in to do something that no-one else could or would do. It is doing so in a loving but accountable fashion.  We dream of the day that lots of churches might be involved in "fostering" street youth. It's a long term (think 12 months) program to undertake. We think it takes a small group to hold the client AND the main caregiver accountable. We believe it's not for every client--in particular we don't believe this is for clients with current addictions or untreated mental health challenges. We wonder how many rural churches could find a way to foster one couple or one mother. We actually think rural churches may have an edge here, because costs are lower and the client is removed from the street element. Only time will tell, but we're privileged to be involved and proud of partners willing to "get out of the boat" and see if God will equip them to do things that would be absolutely impossible without His power and strong hand.


If you'd like to be involved, you can engage with SYM at partners. We do have a quarterly interchange group for those providing care to street-dependent youth in Austin. Contact us to be invited.


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